Overture, noun. 1: an orchestral piece at the beginning of an opera, play, etc. 2: an introduction to something more substantial.
The much-anticipated Overture concert is finally set to take place this Saturday, April 2, and judging by the definition of the word, you are filled with the sense that you won't just be listening to some of the best musicians and singers Australia has to offer - you'll be getting a glimpse into the future of some of our brightest Central West children.
This concert is as much about giving regional musicians and singers - be they children or adults - a chance to shine and show that incredible music exists outside the cities.
Overture is billed as 'Stars under the Stars' performance at the brilliant Cooke Park Pavilion facility, the April 2 event under the beautiful night sky of Parkes will feature two of Australia's leading performers - Lucy Durack and Josh Piterman.
Appearing alongside them will be the most talented singers from the Central West like Billie Palen (Dubbo), Jarrod Draper (Orange), Henry Best (Grenfell) Holly Hare (Bathurst) and local Parkes Christian School primary students Aimee Ross and Lexi Herden.
They will be backed by a full orchestra, with the most talented Central West kids playing alongside the top musicians in Australia.
Harriet Snaith from UpStage Australia (the driving force behind the event) will be the stage manager for the event, and has spent the last few months relentlessly emailing, organizing zoom calls, holding auditions, rehearsing and planning for the hundreds of people involved in the performance.
At the last rehearsal in Parkes, where the kids in the orchestra played with their professional counterparts for the first time, one started to really get a sense of how grand the performance was going to be.
For Harriet though, the performance almost feels secondary. This is about giving the kids involved a chance to get a sneak peek into what their future could be by playing with musicians that have performed in Australia's top productions.
"They bring a bigger sound, and then obviously a mentorship for the kids," said Harriet of what the more seasoned musicians will bring to the orchestra.
"Being regional kids, they don't see where they can go as musicians, and they are at the age where they might be about to give up or want to take it further - but to play with these guys they can see they can be like them.
"The word overture means something is coming next, so this concert is about these kids seeing what they can be next, with Josh and Lucy leading the way," said Harriet.
One of those kids involved, Bathurst singer Holly Hare, was practically bursting with excitement when explaining just what it means to be able to sing with people like Lucy and Josh
"It's incredible to be able to work with them. I'm so excited, and to have this opportunity is incredible," she said at the last rehearsal, with a smile as wide as you'll ever see.
The Parkes Champion Post had a chance to listen to Holly, Aimee and the effervescent Jessica Westcott sing a particularly special song at the last rehearsal, and the sound, quality and emotion is just epic.
Jessica, born and bred in Parkes and the founder of UpStage Australia, will need no introduction to locals and in some ways is the face of this concert - and pleasingly she will be MC'ing the event.
UpStage is a not for profit organisation inspired out of the need to encourage and support artistic talent in Regional NSW. Drawing on the mentorship and enthusiasm of industry professionals in Metropolitan areas, UpStage establishes and maintains a pipeline of support between these artists and their school aged peers with high ambition and exceptional talent.
MC'ing the event is a role she's born for.
"It means I can talk about Upstage, the audition process, how this was created and this amazing journey we've been on - I don't think I could give anyone a script to explain how much this means to all involved," said Jessica.
Attendees can expect songs across a range of different genres, that will leave you feeling both emotional and euphoric.
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Expect the unexpected, really, according to Jessica.
"We really just wanted to make this a mix of different songs, and an event that celebrates music and singing. It's all of the biggest compositions for a mass choir and orchestra, and things that highlight them," she said.
"Nick (Gentile, music director) has arranged every music theatre song under the sun with something different...be it swing or hard rock versions.
"When Nick and I sat down to chose the songs in October, we of course asked Lucy and Josh what they'd like to sing, then it was about what will sound good, and what will highlight each of other singers that are performing," said Jess.
Josh Piterman has graced the stages of West End, the famed Opera House and sung all over the world - but he is excited to 'help people enter another world' through his phenomenal voice at Overture.
When asked by the Parkes Champion Post why he'd come to a place like Parkes after performing in the most glamourous stages all over the world, Josh said for him it is all about the music - not the stage.
"It's such a thing for me to not look on performances as on scales from little to big," he said.
"My purpose and service is to help people enter into another world through music; whether that's in the West End, Opera House, Parkes or in my living room with my fiance.
"I'm just trying to be the best human I can be, give a lot of life, share what I'm passionate about, and embody the behaviours and patterns and way of being that makes these youngsters feel appreciated," said Josh.
She's won a Helpmann Award, been on Neighbours, performed on Australia's biggest stages, delighted as Glinda in Wicked and is one of our nation's biggest stars of stage and screen.
And she's coming to little old Parkes.
"The concert will be beautiful, and a great array of songs - they are covering a lot of ground: Abba, musical theatre, contemporary, opera...you name it," said Lucy.
"I grew up in suburban Perth in the 80's and 90's, and if I had the opportunity to do this as a schoolkid, it would've blown my mind.
"The arts are so important, and we have been deprived of them over the last few years. To have this opportunity to be together and share our music is special.
"There's something so magical about musical theatre...it just makes me feel so happy, alive and fulfilled. We're extremely lucky to have found a passion and the natural therapy of singing is so good for us all," Lucy said.
The festivities will kick off at the pavilion from 3.30pm, with the main show beginning as the sun goes down at 7pm.
A final thought for those that might be questioning the rationale behind a concert like this, or the attention on it.
Like the name Overture suggests, this is as much about the future than the present - it's not about bringing out some superstars like Lucy and Josh for one night.
It's an investment in the future of our children, and an investment in the culture, mental health and togetherness of our special time.
As Glinda would say, I for one do believe we will be changed for the better for this.
Or even, For Good.
You can buy tickets at https://www.123tix.com.au/events/23498/overture. There will be some limited tickets available on the day.
Choose from the allocated seating section where chairs will be provided, or bring your own camping chair or picnic rug and find a space to relax in the beautiful park surrounds. BYO picnics permitted.
Gates open at 3.30pm, entertainment commences from 4pm.
Event proceeds will support a number of community initiatives, including benefiting the McGrath foundation to provide funding for a specialist breast care nurse in the Lachlan region and to UpStage to foster continuing arts development in the region.
Central West locals
Lexi Herden is extremely thankful and excited to be a part of Overture. Lexi lives in Forbes with her family and she attends Parkes Christian School. Last year Lexi had the wonderful opportunity to play the role of "Scuttle" in the PCS production of "The Little Mermaid" - and she like to thank her mum, dad and family for all of their support, especially her Nanna who encouraged her to sing. Lexi is also very grateful to Gail Smith for all her vocal support in 2021.
We can't wait to hear you all sing and perform, you talented rising stars! You've already done our region so proud.
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